Robotic vacuum cleaners: Roomba vs. Zoombot vs. CleanMate
When Roomba first came on to the market in 2002, it was the only item of its kind. The robotic vacuum cleaner was an innovation that met the needs of the busy twenty-first generation family. It could be turned on and more or less left to its own devices so that an area could be vacuumed while the family was doing something else. Since that first model was made, others have come on to the market to compete with it. And, accordingly, Roomba has been re-designed in order to be able to keep up with the new competition. Five years later, how does Roomba keep up with the other robotic vacuum cleaners on the market?
Roomba still looks more or less like it did when it was first invented but it's got more capability than it did back then. For example, when it was first made, the Roomba needed to be told the approximate size of the room that it was going to clean, but innovations in technology have made this characteristic unnecessary in newer models. So, what we're interested in is the new Roomba and what it can do. Here are the basics:
- Size and shape: 13 inch-diameter disc shape, 4 inches in height
- Approximate cost: $150
- Sensors: Contact sensor located on front half, infrared sensor on top front center, 1-2 virtual wall infrared transmitter units
- Batteries: Nickel metal hydride batteries are located inside of the Roomba. It can be plugged into a wall to recharge or a separate self-charging station can be purchased with the Roomba will find itself. Charging time is approximately three hours.
- Manual Details: The Roomba is carried to the starting location. The user starts the Roomba and then selects "clean", "spot" or "max". The Roomba makes a noise to indicate that it has begun and then cleans, using sensors to avoid bumping into walls, falling off of ledges and detecting spots that need to be cleaned more extensively. The owner must empty the vacuum. A remote control can be used.
- Remote Details: The new Roomba does not require the user to be present for the cleaning process. Instead, families can use the scheduler to tell the Roomba to clean at a certain time of day such as when the family is at work or school.
- Flaws: The Roomba takes a long time to clean a room because of the system it uses to make sure that each part of the room is covered. It can not be used with deep-pile carpet because it may get stuck.
- Size and shape: 14 inch-diameter disc shape, 4 inches in height
- Approximate cost: $80
- Sensors: Cliff sensors under the bumper, but there aren't any in the rear so reverse can be a problem.
- Batteries: The Zoombot uses NiCad batteries, located uder a cover in the top of the machine. A connector must be applied to these batteries to charge them, a process which takes about six hours.
- Manual Details: It can be set to run by itself. A remote control is available as well. Note that you can apply Swiffers to use this machine on hardwood floors.
- Remote Details: Standard, nothing fancy.
- Flaws: This one tends to be the slowest of the robotic vacuum cleaners and also the one most likely to leave dirt behind.
- Size and shape: 14 inch-diameter disc shape, 3.6 inches in height
- Approximate cost: $200
- Sensors: Photo sensor detects elevation changes.
- Batteries: In order to compete with the new Roomba, this company has come up with a new model, the QQ-2, which has its own charging station that it can find on its own. When the battery goes low, it will self-charge and return to work. Charging takes approximately three-and-a-half hours.
- Manual Details: It has a remote control which can be stored on the machine itself.
- Remote Details: Same as the Roomba but note that it also has deodorizers and a UV disinfecting light.
- Flaws: None that are notable.
Taking a look at these details, it becomes clear that the new Roomba is still able to compete in the robotic vacuum market. It is significantly better than the (admittedly considerably cheaper) Zoombot. However, the new CleanMate is one-upping it with its extra disinfectant and deodorizing options and its ability to return to work after self-charging, so a new design for the Roomba may be in order again before too long.
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